Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II congratulated the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday and expressed hope the new pontiff would strive to develop relations between the two churches, rocked by Russian allegations of Catholic poaching of Orthodox believers.
The late Pope John Paul II had wanted to promote greater unity a millennium after the Great Schism, but antagonism rose as the Roman Catholics tried to re-assert their presence after the Soviet collapse.
"I sincerely hope that the Pontificate of Your Holiness will be marked by the development of kind relations between our Churches and of a fruitful Orthodox-Catholic dialogue," Alexy said in a letter.
Alexander Ogorodnikov, a religion expert and editor of an Orthodox magazine, said that judging by the past, Benedict will be more reserved in relations with the Orthodox Church.
"There may even be a certain cooling of relations," he said.
On the photo: Patriarch Alexy II
The Kremlin has taken two strong steps in a war of nerves that has caused quite a stir in the NATO-Ukraine alliance